Thursday, November 09, 2006

John Adams and the French Revolution

John Adams observed that the American Constitution required a moral political and social culture to support it. One of his great fears was that the ideas of Rousseu would penetrate American culture and, in undermining the culture, undermine the Constitution. I propose that we look at the ideas of Adams and other thinkers of the French Revolution in order to understand what it was that Adams feared. The influence of Rousseau, his ideas, and philosophers who have ideas and assumptions like Rousseau's is everywhere in our current political landscape.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I wonder about the differences in the religious beliefs of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson and the importance of their Faith in shaping their political philosophy. I recall that John Adams went to Harvard intending to become a Minister (Congregationalist, Anglican??) and switched to study law (the secular priesthood). I don't know enough of the specifics to characterize Jefferson's religious beliefs off-hand.
Dave Fleming (retired Lt. General and former head of West Point) wrote a very interesting contrast of the character of George Washington and Benedict Arnold. He summed-up the ancient Greek philosophers in shirt-sleeve English as saying that character has two components: (1) knowing right from wrong and (2) having the integrity to do right even when it is less convenient, would reflect negatively on yourself etc.
Washington, and his character, is essential to the practical reality of our government...primarily in that he honored the limits of checks and balances or self-imposed limits such as two-terms as President.
The other essential factor in all this (and the author of the Blog is truly expert on these matters, so pardon my superficial reaction) is a Catch-22! How does the first essential factor of character, that of "knowing right from wrong", apply if those in power have redefined what is right and what is wrong? The Dave Fleming approach assumes a Natural Law that informs us all of right from wrong. Ah, but then came those who were ever so Enlightened that they could toss Natural Law out the window and we have had several centuries with examples of Hell-on-earth as a result (French Revolution, WWI, WWII, Cold War etc.).

8:41 AM  

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